LADIES IN BLACK (PG)
A BEAUTIFUL OUTFIT, CUT FROM THE RIGHT MATERIAL DIRECTOR: BRUCE BERESFORD (DRIVING MISS DAISY)
STARRING: ANGOURIE RICE, JULIA ORMOND, SUSIE PORTER, RACHAEL TAYLOR, ALISON MCGIRR, NONI HAZLEHURST, RYAN CORR
Asincerely sweet bundle of nostalgic joy, the fine new Australian movie
Ladies in Black is unwrapped amid a lovely, light-drenched and laid-back Sydney we will never see the likes of again.
Directed by Bruce Beresford from the novel Women in Black by Madeleine St John, the enjoyable and easy-to-follow story told here spans the summer of 1959.
To while away an agonising wait for exam results that may get her into university, a bright teenager lands a position as a sales assistant at Goodes, the city’s finest department store.
While learning a little about style, commerce and customer service during working hours, Lisa (a luminous Angourie Rice) learns a lot about life after hours from Magda (Julia Ormond), the imperious head of the store’s glamour outfits section.
The other “ladies in black” who work the clothing counters on the same floor at Goodes are more than a little wary of Magda. It is not so much her bossy nature that raises hackles, as it is the way she trades on the exotic nature of her ethnic background.
This was an era where wartime refugees from Europe who had resettled in Australia were often viewed with outright suspicion by default. The locals kept their distance, and let “the reffos” do their own thing.
As Lisa gains some valuable confidence navigating her new and exciting workplace, she also becomes a social bridge between the various factions at Goodes.
Though Ladies in Black always trades ably on its glorious looks – the period production design and vintage fashions are both exquisite – there is a thematic substance behind all that style which is not to be denied.
The movie definitely has something to say on a surprisingly wide spectrum of themes, not the least of which include our culture’s tolerance of outsiders, and the limited opportunities afforded to women in both the workplace and the halls of higher education.
While a good time is definitely in the offing here, younger viewers unfamiliar with Australia in a simpler, but also harsher time will walk away somewhat enlightened as well as entertained.
It must also be noted that the acting ensemble on display, which includes Rachael Taylor, Susie Porter, Noni Hazlehurst and promising newcomer Alison McGirr, is flawless.
In fact, it is hard to name a better-cast Australian movie than this in recent times.
ALISON MCGIRR, ANGOURIE RICE AND RACHAEL TAYLOR FEATURE AMONG AN IMPRESSIVE ENSEMBLE CAST IN LADIES IN BLACK.